Speaker of the Mississippi House Philip Gunn
House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton Credit: Gil Ford Photography

Cities and counties may see an extra $50 million in state money to fix deficient bridges.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted Monday to pass House Bill 1732, presented by Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton.

Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Natchez, told the committee that 28 percent of the bridges in the state are either substandard or impassable. The $50 million in this bill would add to the state’s aid efforts, he said.

Rep. Mark Formby, R-Picayune, said he has never seen numbers backing up Johnson’s claim.

“I just continue to try and figure out where all these bridges are and whose purview they used to fall in and whose purview they fall in now,” he said.

Last year, the Mississippi Economic Council, with the support of its corporate members, pushed a $375 million initiative that would have provided funding to the Mississippi Department of Transportation for road and bridge improvements.

The initiative would have funded replacing 138 bridges across the state, including all wood bridges, and paving projects for Mississippi Department of Transportation across the state.

Rep. Larry Byrd, R-Petal, said he last checked in 2015 and found there were more than 2,000 local bridges, which fall under the purview of cities and counties, that qualified for the Local System Bridge Replacement Rehabilitation Program.

The bill will now go to the floor of the House of Representatives. It must be passed before Wednesday’s deadline to advance.

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Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.